In the recent past, the boundary between television and computer has been getting thinner by the year. With the advent of the so-called Smart TVs, it’s now common practice to browse the Internet, do video conference or even write an e-mail from your living room couch, with no need for a computer.
That is just great – and it’s quite likely that within a decade, all TV’s will be smart. But… what about the present? If you already own a decent –but “dumb”- flat screen TV, should you take the plunge and upgrade to a “smart” model to benefit from its standout features?
Not necessarily so. If your TV features a USB or HDMI port, you can just get an inexpensive Android Stick or a streaming box that will allow getting beyond the functionality of a Smart TV, at a *much* lower cost.
This was one of the earliest Android Sticks to surface, and it remains quite popular on account of its decent performance and low price (around $45 on Amazon). It boast a Dual Core processor (Rockchip RK3066 Cortex-A9), runs stock Android 4.1, and features 1GB DDR3 RAM plus 8GB internal storage. Like most of these devices, there’s also a microSD card reader to allow expanding its functionality.
If you’re looking for something a bit more powerful than the MK808 above, just look for one of the newer quad-core Android sticks, like the QC802. With a retail price of around $85, this gadget features a RK3188 ARM Cortex-A9 CPU that clocks up to 1.6Ghz, 2GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, and a Mali-400 GPU that supports the most graphically intensive games and does full HD output. You can also plug your microSD cards to expand storage up to 32GB.
If you’re planning to use one of the aforementioned Android Sticks, you will also need to get a wireless keyboard and/or mouse. There are dozens of available models, some closer to a remote control on steroids, others more akin to a full-size keyboard and touchpad. To get the most comfort and functionality, we recommend one of the latter – specifically the Logitech K400 Touch Keyboard picture above. Using one of these together with a good Android Stick will effectively turn your TV into a machine that’s good enough for everyday computing.
The Apple TV is actually on a different class: the streaming box. Comparable to Google TV, this kind of gadget is closer to the functions and look of a smart TV. Using this device (which costs around $100), you can subscribe to 1080p HD programming, as well as stream video content and games from your iPhone or iPad. In short, this is more of a counterpart to your existing gadgets, rather than a stand-alone computer like the Android sticks mentioned above.
For anyone who’s actively interested in games, the Ouya game station is probably the best available choice. This $100 gadget is essentially an Android stick with heavy focus on gaming (which the other sticks can also handle), including a nice wireless gamepad and dedicated game channel. With its powerful Tegra3 SoC processor, it will handle even the most impressive Android games without flinching. Additionally, it also allows browsing the web and installing conventional apps.